Dialogue in Science and Religious Education: Evolution Instruction in a Diverse Democratic Society using Pedagogy of Difference
This project will examine and investigate the challenge of the teaching of evolution and origins in Israel, where science is generally accepted as a valuable way of understanding and describing the natural world, and where religious beliefs and cultural heritage remain a valuable lens for understanding the world and humanity’s place within it. Despite being a scientific theory that is both contentious and difficult to teach, evolutionary theory has received little attention in Israeli education research. This is an opportune moment for such work.
Directed by Hanan Alexander, the project will systematically research and analyse the educational philosophies, policies, curricula, and attitudes and practices that underlie the teaching of evolutionary theory, on the one hand, and religious and non-religious worldviews about human origins, on the other. These analyses will inform the pilot of a new teaching strategy, rooted in the “pedagogy of difference,” for addressing challenges to the teaching of evolution in a mix of Israeli school settings including religious- and secular-Jewish, Christian, and Muslim schools.
Although this project focuses on evolution and origins, its implications are broader for understanding how knowledge works in different domains. It will inform thinking about how to teach scientific theories accurately in a manner that is sensitive to students whose beliefs may seem to be at odds with prevailing scientific theories. It will also aid our understanding of how to help students explore the meaning of core religious narratives without discounting scientific theories or alienating students whose worldviews may privilege scientific over religious explanations. Hanan Alexander’s team will disseminate their findings through academic publications, popular essays, and a book written for a broad audience. They also plan to promote their work to Israeli policy makers through workshops for Ministry of Education personnel and teachers.